Atco Consort 14 (CT14) self-propelled lawnmower repair

A mid-90’s take on a classic design, dodges the tip

When they say; “they don’t make things the way they used to”, they’re right… sadly.

With many repairs that I do, half the battle is identifying the correct or closest-match replacement part.  Half the fun is finding a part to do the job, when the original manufacturer can’t or won’t sell that part.

IMG_2260
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Atco Consort 14 (CT14)

Make and model: Atco (Qualcast) Consort 14 (CT14- 002107A)

Fault reported: Intermittent running

Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  0/10

Cost of parts:  £24.44, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Hours spent on finding parts: 1 hour

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of tea:  X 1

Biscuits: Custard Cream X 1

Some things are just a joy to work on because of the way the original design and engineering teams that came up with the product, saw their machines being used in real life.

Even though this machine was built in the 1990s, the Consort 14’s DNA comes from a long line of designs that include the famous ‘Suffolk Punch’ lawn mower created by Suffolk Iron Foundries of Stowmarket in 1954.  This machine is badged as Atco (and Qualcast in places) but the electric motor was made in Stowmarket, England.  The original factory had a reputation for making everything, literally everything, for its machines, right down to the nuts and bolts and this ethos lives on in the CT14.

I’m not going to bang on about sustainable design and circular economy here, but today, unless one pays serious money, garden equipment is simply not built to last any more than a couple of years.  Many of the mowers and strimmers you can buy for under £100 in B&Q, Tescos (here in the UK) and alike have a built-in obsolescence factor measured in months, not decades.  Personally, I believe that products like this should be banned.  Too many end up at my local tip with the price label still attached…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A neighbour asked me to look at their Atco lawnmower, which had stopped mowing recently.  They were wondering if it was worth bothering with a repair, I of course said that the machine that they had was better than many machines available now, so it was absolutely worth repairing!

The mower is a self-propelled, cylinder type with speed control and clutch to engage the propulsion system, as desired.  It’s a neat design that’s hard to better.  The next time you are at Wembley or Wimbledon, just look at the mowers still used by professional grounds maintenance teams.

The Atco is designed to receive occasional maintenance and all items which might require the owner or maintenance engineer to inspect are easy to access.  Forward thinking again, shown by the designers.  The main issue in 2020 is that parts are only available from aftermarket suppliers and although there are still (thankfully) specialists ready to supply, part numbers and cross-referencing is a nightmare and despite me doing this work in the UK and this machine being made in the UK, the repair required a degree of investigation and sleuth work to get the parts needed.

The motor was my first port of call and with only a couple of bolts holding it in place, the motor was soon removed.  It was in good overall condition but the carbon brushes were a little short and needed replacing. This explained why the motor had suddenly cut-out.

You might think that finding carbon brushes for a UK made motor, might be easy.  You would be wrong.  Despite several conversations with mower experts, these brushes were seemingly unavailable, off the shelf.  I did order some brushes for an equivalent model produced a little later, but these were too large.  I could have filed them down to make them fit, but after rooting around in my collection of brushes (as one does) I found that a new pair of brushes from a Kenwood Chef A701 fitted perfectly.

While I had the mower in pieces, I decided to inspect the drive belts which were both in poor condition.  One was split and one had stretched badly.  For smooth, reliable operation, both required a replacement.

Again, the Consort 14 was not on many mower supplier inventories, so finding the correct belts required cross checking with other Qualcast and Bosch (Bosch later acquired Qualcast) models and a little bit of luck to match them up.  Fortunately, eBay sellers came to the rescue again and I managed to find the correct belts which fitted perfectly.

With the mower back together, it was ready to run for another 30 years.  Time for another cuppa.

Footnote:  I’m very aware that I sound like a stuck record…

Look, many products made and sold nowadays are much better than older ones.  I’m not saying that all old things are better. Take old cars for example (although I have a soft spot for old cars):  They were polluting, they didn’t have safety built-in (in general) they rusted-out and broke down, all the time.  New ones generally don’t break down, last for longer and you’ll walk away from many crash situations.

New things are usually safer, more efficient and capable.  However, many older machines were designed to be serviced, repaired and re-used over and over, which in my opinion, is more sustainable.  Many products today, especially mowers and alike are designed to last for 18 months hard-use and then the whole thing is scrapped, but it’s apparently acceptable to society as it ‘only cost 40 quid- I’ve had my monies worth’.

It’s this notion that doesn’t sit well with me and I see a growing cohort of people who are not prepared to accept this waste of resources either.  What say you?

 

Nilfisk GM80 industrial vacuum cleaner

This ‘vacuum beast’ from the 1960s gets serviced, ready for today

Sometimes big is best and when it comes to longevity, this machine is tough to beat.

I wasn’t born when this machine was made, but good quality designs and engineering foresight, means that new parts fit retrospectively.  Why aren’t all machines made this way?

Make and model: Nilfisk GM80 (large)

Fault reported: Poor running

Cost of replacement: £600-800 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  8/10

Cost of parts: £14.94, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1.5 hours

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter, soap and water etc

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials, wire wool

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of coffee:  X1

Biscuits: X2 Chocolate Hobnobs (that don’t dunk that well in coffee, truth be told)

Recently, I got the opportunity to tackle an industrial vacuum cleaner in need of a proper service, which had been in continual use since the late 1960’s.  Judging by the condition it was in when I first received it in the workshop, I doubt that some parts of the machine had received any care since its first day at work.

The machine in question is a Nilfisk GM80 (large).  It’s a ‘large’ as it has a milk-churn sized base to it, which means it can swallow a lot of dust.  The large base has long been discontinued, but you can still buy the current smaller base, should yours be damaged.  Indeed, the Nilfisk GM80 range of vacuum cleaners are all quite modular and feature different levels of filtration, depending on the specific environment they are put to use in.  This means you can easily swap parts from donor machines to keep older machines going. The design means that parts seldom go obsolete, new parts just get improved and fit older models.  Great news for sustainability.

Back to the machine in question.  It had been covered for many years under a service contract, but for whatever reason, that company were no longer taking quite as much time as they should and applying as much care with each inspection.  This ‘serviced’ machine had recently had a new motor (hence later model motor housing) but the basics of vacuum principles had been overlooked.

I won’t go into the repair blow-by-blow, so here’s a summary of the work completed:

  • clean of all rubber seals and mating surfaces, essential to avoid air leaks
  • check and adjust all housing clips and adjust as necessary (all of them in this case)
  • wash motor diffuser (this had been changed within the last year)
  • wash main cotton filter (this had never been done, it was so clogged)
  • wash motor intake filter
  • check condition of motor brushes and bearing end-float (all fine)
  • check and tighten electrical IEC connection
  • inspect flex for damage (all OK)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The previous service agent had stated that the damaged hose (original 1960’s rubber item) was now unavailable and that a replacement was impossible.  Impossible eh?  That’s two letters too long.

Upon taking the old hose connectors apart (and removing layers of gaffer tape), I discovered that the internal diameter was similar to a Nilfisk-to-Numatic aftermarket adaptor and with a little adjustment, this 1960’s Nilfisk machine could be made compatible with Numatic’s vacuum cleaner hose design, which is much more abundant, here in the UK.  So, with a little jiggery pokery, this machine is ready to work for its living, once again, with a shiny new hose.

So yet again, when an ‘expert’ tells you that something cannot be repaired, don’t necessarily take their word for it.  A second opinion can sometimes save you time and money.

The repair didn’t break the bank either and I have since taken on more machine service work for this organisation.

The tale of Hetty & Henry

A small mix up nearly resulted in some body modification…

IMG_2026
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Henry & Hetty bathing in the sunshine

Make and model: Hetty Vacuum Cleaner (HET200-22)

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement: £100-£140

Manufacturer support:  10/10

Cost of parts: £21.59, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour with service

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: Silicone spray, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 4/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: Ginger Nut X2

If only everything was as well made and built to last as a Henry (or Hetty!) hoover.  Simple as a knife and fork, with tried and tested technology, it’s a machine created by an engineer, for everyone to own, use and repair themselves, when needed.

A neighbour got in touch to say that their broken Hetty was about to be scrapped and asked if I could do anything with it.  Of course, I said.  To be honest with you all, I’m not that confident with all repairs, but I knew that in the case of this one, I should be fine as Numatic products are pretty well supported by the manufacturer. And this is the thing:

How many purchases do we make that consider; “will I be able to get parts for that one day”?

We all do it, but as a tinkerer I try and consider the longevity and likely need for replacement components when I’m considering handing over my hard earned wedge, at point of purchase.

The Hetty had been working fine, but had then conked out, mid clean.  No drama, no noise, no smoke, it had just stopped.  The owner had already checked the fuse, but that was fine (as they often are).

When things just stop and won’t restart, that symptom is often trying to tell you something and if you’re listening, capturing the way something fails and acting on the information can save you time and often money.  It’s a trick I’m always trying to perfect, although one can be caught out anytime- but that’s half the fun.

  • The machine stopped suddenly…
    • Maybe the cable broke?
    • Maybe the plug is damaged
    • Maybe a component failed quickly

Expensive things like motors tend to start making noises, run slower than usual or smell bad before failing.  They can ‘just stop’ of course, but it’s likely that there will be a build-up, so I proceeded with some confidence that the motor was probably fine.  I always check motor bearings and brushes anyway, when servicing this type of thing.

Since the mains cable and plug were fine, it was time to delve inside.  The Hetty top is simply held together with a few screws (normal cross head) which then frees the cable winder and motor assembly, when undone.

I suspected the two-speed control PCB as these can fail suddenly without warning and since I have no Numatic PCB tester (if there is such a thing), all I could do is prove the component as faulty, beyond reasonable doubt.  A quick check with my multi-meter revealed that there was no output, when connected to the mains.  Suspicious.

It is also possible to by-pass the speed control PCB on these machines, which I did.  I connected the motor up without it’s 600W/1200W control circuit in the loop and the motor spun up just fine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Often, I like to go direct to the manufacturer (where possible) for spare parts as you often get the truth about an appliance as well as the latest version of a part.  Often, manufacturers continue to iron out bugs and develop upgrades for spare parts as these will be fitted to the latest models.  A company such as Numatic seem to apply those upgrades retrospectively to older models too, so that all customers new and old, can enjoy the benefits.  For information; UK spec speed controller part 208436 (red) replaces part 206735 (orange) for model HET200-22.

As I couldn’t find the part I needed on any website, a quick call to Numatic UK, gave me the information I needed.  Even during Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK, the lady in Numatic’s spares department, working from her kitchen, was able to advise me on the upgraded part I now needed and arrange for it to be with me for the next working day.  If that’s not good service, I don’t know what is.  http://www.numatic.co.uk

With the new part installed, the motor spun once more, at the correct two speeds.  Happy days.

All fine then.  Not quite. 

Hetty had been supplied with a red base, not the original pink one that Hetty should have.

As we all know… no?  Just me then, Henry is red and Hetty is pink and there is a range of names and colours to choose from in the range.

When I tried to fit the Hetty top to the supplied red base, it didn’t fit.  Quite a head-scratching moment, if I’m being frank with you.  Had it never fitted? Had the owner simply just put up with it the way it was?  Had there been some kind of strange swapping incident that I wasn’t aware of?  Time to get some answers!

It turns out that my neighbour have both Henry and Hetty models and had given me the wrong base.  They had assumed they are all the same.  They’re not actually, see below.

The latest Henry and Hetty tops have a cut-out for the tool storage bracket moudling as shown on the red base above.  The earlier Hetty I had in the workshop had no such bracket in the plastic.  I did offer to modify the Hetty top I had with my Dremel saw, but this offer was declined!

With the right top and base paired up once more, I was happy, the neighbours were happy and another vacuum cleaner had been saved from being scrapped needlessly.

Time for another brew.

 

Horray for Henry!

A Numatic Henry vacuum cleaner gets the kiss of life…

IMG_1545
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Numatic ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner HVA200a (to be exact).

There are times when only no-nonsense suck will do.  Other vacuum cleaners offer the moon on a stick, but rarely live up to the repeated abuse of everyday life.  Henry on the other hand is tough, no-nonsense and above all, reliable.

Reviewers of this kind of thing, seem to agree.

Make and model: Numatic International ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner HVA200a

Fault reported: Dead/ not running

Cost of replacement: About £130, give or take

Cost of parts: £17.25

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Cleaning tools/ cross-head screwdriver

Sundry items: Silicone spray/ cleaning rags

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 1 bourbon, I think

I have friends in trades who will only buy and use Henry ‘hoovers’ as they last, always work and are easy to use. And above all, who doesn’t like an appliance with a smiley face?

The example in the picture above had been used by a local Worthing taxi driver everyday for the last 15 years without any problems and was in pretty good nick.  The filter was clean and apart from some wear and tear scratches, still looked like the current model.

One day, Henry failed to switch on and after the owner had checked the fuse in the plug, he decided to get in touch with the workshop.

IMG_1546
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Henry’s on switch.

The HVA200a has two speed settings, one at 600 Watts power and one at 1200 Watts power, selectable by a red switch and indicated in a red tell-tail lamp.  When plugged in, nothing was happening.

Time to perform surgery.

Opening up Henry’s casing was straightforward and top marks to the designers for creating sensible parts that fit together logically.  Henry is designed to last and be repaired.  All very pleasing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With the lid removed, all electrical checks were made from the plug to the end of the flex, down to the motor.  The flex was in good condition with no snags, shorts or earth faults.  The cable winder on this model is a simple handle operating spindle and was a bit sticky.  The contacts inside the gubbins were also tarnished, so while it was all in pieces, I decided to clean all of the electrical contacts with cleaner and make sure all the sliding parts of the cable winder were clean and had a small dab of silicone spray for smoothness.

Testing for current around the circuit revealed that the speed control board was where things stopped.  The speed control board was dead and required replacing.

To prove this fact, I was able to temporarily by-pass the controller and connect the mains switch to the motor, which revealed that the motor was strong.

A quick bit of shopping with my favourite parts suppliers yielded a replacement (updated) speed control PCB for under £20, which seemed like good value to me.  After making a note of the wiring (see slideshow), the new PCB was connected up, the casing back together and Henry was ready to run, once more.

I also decided to give Henry a little polish too, just because.

 

 

Dyson: Please sell me the part I need

A DC32 Animal Vacuum Cleaner gets a second chance

One of these please, Dyson…

 

IMG_0558
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, broken turbine/ fan.

All things made, will eventually break.  Things that are made eventually wear out and either must be replaced or repaired.  However, some things wear out a little faster than others.

Planned obsolescence and manufacturing budgets mean that parts within products can wear out faster than reasonably expected and fail totally, rendering the rest of a perfectly working item, useless.

This is where us repair folk come in.  We refuse to accept this problem and work away tirelessly in sheds and lockups everywhere, working on solutions to problems such as this, keeping things going, a little longer.

A friend’s DC32 Animal cylinder vacuum cleaner’s roller beaters had stopped turning and made nothing but a horrible noise, when the cleaner was in use.  Not cool.

The roller beaters on this model are literally vacuum operated by a turbine/ fan which spins fast when air passes across it, driving the beaters by a toothed belt and gear.  There is no separate motor to drive the roller beaters, which is quite an elegant solution to a complex problem.

Fast forward to the issue and despite identifying the broken part and then contacting Dyson directly for a replacement, they would not sell what I needed, a part that would probably cost no more than £10 to supply.  Such a shame.

Website
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, Dyson website screenshot 22/12/19.
Copy head
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, a copy item on eBay for under £20, screenshot 22/12/19.

The price of the (original equipment quality) complete Dyson Turbine Head, suitable for the DC32 vacuum cleaner, is £60.00 as a direct replacement from Dyson, but the part is now copied by other manufacturers.  A pattern part design is available for under £20 and if this was my machine, I’d be tempted at that price.  Pattern parts have their place, but I suspect that at this price, performance won’t be quiet as good as the original.

So, a choice:

  • Replace the part with a brand new Dyson part – too expensive
  • Replace with a non-original part, that will probably do the job – unknown outcomes, unsatisfying
  • Attempt a repair on the original part.  Of course it’s what I’m going to do!

On with the repair.  The Turbine Head is screwed together using Torx head screws and the side vents that secure the main drive unit, pop-off the main casing, with some encouragement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A picture paints a thousand words and the above slide shows the dismantling and reassembly process for the Turbine Head.  If attempting this kind of thing yourself, remember to keep all components free of dirt and grime.

In the absence of a replacement, I attempted a repair to the existing fan and since it was made of plastic (some kind of nylon derivative I think) it was going to be difficult.  Not many glues will stick this type of plastic well, so my choice was going to be ‘make or break’, literally.  I considered an epoxy resin, but opted for Gorilla Glue, since it expands slightly in use, to all of the microscopic gaps.  I also used it to modify the fan by filling-in around the spindle to try and prevent slippage, when spinning.  When dry, I lightly sanded any high spots of glue away.

IMG_0655
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, glued turbine/ fan.

Once the whole unit was back together and reconnected to the main vacuum cleaner, the head roller beaters spun once again without a horrible noise.  Question is, how long will it run for?  If anyone thinks they can make a replacement using 3D printing, please let me know!

An orange Kenwood Chef A901! I mean, what’s not to like?

More orange please!

Why oh why oh why are more kitchen machines not orange?  I mean, just look at this beauty.  Rare-ish and as a Chef spotter, I think the only time I’ve seen another is on the kids’ TV program, Waffle the Wonder Dog on Cbeebies, here in the UK.  Do you have one in another funky colour?  If so, please send me a picture!

An orange Chef in the workshop:  It was like Christmas had come early.

IMG_20191209_213850
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, orange Chef A901.

 

Make and model: Kenwood Chef A901 (orange)

Fault reported: No go

Cost of replacement: About £300

Cost of parts: £13.74

Hours spent on repair: 2

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver, soldering iron, multi-meter, cleaning tools

Sundry items: Light oil

Repair difficulty: 5/10

Cups of tea: 1

Cheesecakes: 2

Capture
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Kenwood Chef Major in Orange.  Super rare?

The Chef had actually been working for a living since it provided daily assistance in the production of artisan cheesecakes, being sold at a local market.  Recently it had decided to start a smoking habit and then go on strike leaving the owner in a bit of a muddle and customers with rumbling tummies.  That simply wouldn’t do.

Anyway, on with the repair. Opening up the casing revealed the problem straightaway.  One of the capacitors had failed and a resistor had burned out, leaving a failed circuit.

IMG_7870 cap
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, A901 failed components.

With a decent repair kit bought (from eBay), I replaced all components relating to the speed control circuit, which made the motor run again.  I also replaced all the machine’s 5 feet, since the originals had long since gone to mush, something they all do with age. Since the motor was out of the unit, I took the trouble to adjust the motor’s end float and oil the bearings, for ultra-smooth running.  Very satisfying.

IMG_20191202_210500
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, orange Chef in bits.

With the casing all back together, I gave the machine a light T-Cut and polish to make it look as good as new and despite its 30-odd years and the odd bit of flaky paint, I think you’ll agree- it looks fab.

IMG_20191209_213838
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December’19, orange Chef A901, open, looking fab.

PS, thanks to Andrew for supplying the very yummy scrummy, lime cheescakes.

 

 

Janod Toy Phone repair/ Une réparation de Janod jouet téléphone

A Janod Toy Phone gets opened up and stuck back together.

There’s always a debate to be had on what age one should give a child a phone, but as a parent, groovy toys like this are hard to resist.  I mean, who doesn’t like a toy that makes cool noises, at the touch of a button.

I especially enjoyed the cuckoo noise (clock symbol).

Make and model: Janod toy phone

Fault reported: No sound, despite new batteries

Cost of replacement: About £10

Cost of parts: £0.00

Hours spent on repair: 0.5

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver and soldering iron

Sundry items: Glue

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 0

A friend of ours got in touch to ask if I could look at their daughter’s toy phone, which had stopped working after being dropped on a hard surface.  Despite the rubber outer cover fitted, after being dropped, the phone now rattled and made no sound.

The (adult) owners had changed the small coin cell batteries, but to no avail and were now wondering what to do, so I said I’d admit it to the workshop.

Janod.com are a French company specialising in making funky wooden toys with a retro warm vibe, while offering modern features.  I like their stuff.

However, on the repair side of things, the designer had not allowed me any service access to the rear of the phone.  It was glued.  The only way of getting in was to break the casing open to see what was going on.

Janod:  I like your products, but please consider changing your designs to allow repair.  Tamper proof screws and other child-resistant systems can be used so that only those with intent can open up the casing to perform a repair.

I used a small flat-bladed screwdriver to gently prise the casing apart and after some nail-biting moments, (I was worried I was going to snap something), the back came off.

The fault became apparent almost immediately.  The small speaker had become detached from the mounting and a wire from the circuit board to the speaker had snapped.  A little soldering and a bit of hot melt glue and the speaker was installed back where it was meant to go, ready to sound off again.

The last job was to repair the now broken case.  Since it was wooden, I used PVA wood glue on the mating surfaces and held the phone for 48 hours gently in my bench vice and now, no one would never know the repair ever happened.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The toy was returned to its owner ready to bring child happiness and parent irritation, once more.  I had to press the cuckoo noise button a few times before I gave it back.